Imagine yourself as a first-year college student who comes to campus a week early for an intensive week of programming that acclimates you to the college scene.
Now, add an intense human-centered design project over five days that makes students think outside the box to define and solve a problem in groups with people they have only met mere hours before the project got underway.
This is what happened this week in my IUPUI Bridge course this week.
Bridge is an IUPUI initiative that brings first-year students to the classroom and dormitories one week before classes begin to help them get acclimated to campus life, the college campus, and their new surroundings. My instructional team consisted of our senior academic advisor Jana Renner and junior peer leader Kyle Clay, who is also the President of the Sports Management Club at IUPUI (I could not have done any of this without them).
In late April, I was presented with an opportunity to add the human-centered design project to my Bridge section with the Bridge Innovation Pilot devised by Dr. Christian Rogers, Heather Bowman, and their team. With the way our sport management curriculum flows, students’ careers end with a human-centered design project in their capstone course. This was a perfect fit.
It was my first opportunity to teach the subject of human-centered design and guide students through the design thinking process with the purpose of finding and solving a problem affecting the campus community. I recently completed a certificate in event design from the Event Design Collective with Ruud Janssen, DES, CMM and Erica Shonkwiler, MBA, CMP so I thought this is even more perfect now with that knowledge fresh in my mind.
Dr. Rogers had planned the pilot out well by having students in each section get into groups, pick an issue important to IUPUI, and find a solution based on results of interviews with stakeholders. REMEMBER, these are students who (a) had met for the first time hours before starting and (b) had never done a human-centered design project or had the subject taught to them.
With just a five-day turnaround, the students had very little time to conduct human-centered design. However, they pulled it off … and in the most grand way!
Below is the timeline of how I went about this extremely rewarding project that I am going to seek to apply in other courses:
Monday – Step 1: Empathy
I taught the students, in a quick 45-minute morning session, the five-step process of design thinking before presenting them with the three issues from which to choose.
Think of this equation: A+B=C.
Most high school students have been given either the problem (A+B) or the answer (C), but I presented this equation to them, __+__=__, and asked, “what can we do here?” Many said “nothing” and one said “that’s impossible.” I responded with, “is it? Can you solve a problem if you don’t know a problem exists?” YES, you can! You have to FIND THE PROBLEM first by seeking answers from those who find the issue important, and this method is called human-centered design.
They were charged with interviewing someone outside their group with a vested interest in IUPUI and they were to select one of three issues as their topic:
- Sustainability/Energy Reduction at IUPUI
- Rethinking a space to enhance the IUPUI experience
- Strengthening IUPUI’s connection to Indianapolis
With five groups of five students each, we had three groups pick the rethinking of a space and two pick strengthening the connection to Indy.
In the afternoon, we attended the Pilot Kickoff session with Dr. Rogers and Associate Vice Chancellor of Undergraduate Education Dr. Jay Gladden with the other seven sections participating. After talking to Dr. Rogers about what I had taught to my section, he had me bring the same talk to the rest of the sections, which, I’ll be honest, felt kind of good.
We were off to the races at that point and the students never looked back.
Tuesday – Step 2: Define the Problem
While we did not have a formal innovation session, the students were able to bring together their interview results during 15-minute breaks throughout the day. They brought these together and came up with the problems that existed according to the interview subjects.
Wednesday – Step 3: Ideate, Step 4: Prototype and Step 5: Test
This was where the majority of the work was completed. The students knocked out their themes and piled ideas onto their whiteboards. Ideas ranged from a relaxation and shade space in an open courtyard to a rewards program for community engagement. The students settled on one idea and began the fourth step of the process.
Each group got busy sketching and discussing their solutions while taking notes and jotting down ideas on their wall Post-Its. It was amazing! Twenty-five students in five groups who have known each other for three days creating and innovating. It was astounding! I was taking pictures and just listening to the intense and productive dialogue as they created their first iterations.
They were to take their prototypes back to the interviewees (Test) and get more feedback to see if a new iteration was required or if something different would be better. They were well on their way to creating some great presentations.
Thursday – Prepare for the Innovation Showcase
The students had completed the task. They had found a problem, developed a solution, and created a prototype with subsequent iterations. Now, it was time to build how they were going to present their solution.
Each had sketches, photos, diagrams, bullet lists of ideas, a tri-fold board, and their computers. They completed their projects in a little over an hour and some even took it back to their dorms to truly complete it.
Friday – Innovation Showcase
This went way beyond my expectations. These students put together some fantastic presentations and took them to Taylor Hall where they were able to present their idea. Every group nailed it! Students, faculty, and staff funneled through the rooms with dozens of presentations all creatively solving selected problems.
In my case, all five groups developed presentations that stood out! All five ideas from revamping Taylor Courtyard and University Tower Courtyard to creating a new bus line, redeveloping the University Tower mailbox area and developing a way to track volunteer hours in the community to reward students for continued activity.
They were all brilliant! Keep in mind, these students had never met one another, are entering their first semester of college, in a strange place, and have never done a project like this before. It defied expectations!
But, it wasn’t just my section. The other seven sections were outstanding as well! While some judges were able to make it to the showcase, others were not. Those who made it gave awards to groups they believe were highly innovative. Guess what? TWO of my groups earned that judge’s award!
It was a JAM-PACKED week!
- Five faculty members: Michael Sprinkle, Dr. Brian Krohn, Amy Vaughan, Amy Johnson, Dr. David Pierce joined the class to discuss the Department of TESM on our annual Faculty Panel.
- Kai Biami, Ian Park, Alyssa Ramirez, Elise Schwager, Rachel Lohman, and Erika McKibben discussed student involvement and how to be successful as an IUPUI students as part of our annual Student Panel.
- Fresh off the Indiana State Fair, Michael Sprinkle kindly gave his time to give our students a look into what it’s like in the classroom with a Mock Lecture.
- IUPUI TCEM graduate Reid Milam joined Indianapolis Zoo Marketing and Events Manager Rachel Pfotenhauer to discuss events, venues, and all the things the Zoo has going on and how students can be a part of it.
- We walked six miles (!!) going to each sporting venue before a trip to the observation deck at the City-County Building and lunch at the City Market. We closed the trip with a venture through the SkyWalk and getting students to understand how the connectedness of the hotels impacts the city.
- We heard about getting an internship and full-time position from recent grad Grant Weigel who currently works with corporate partnerships at the Indiana Pacers.
- AND, the Innovation Pilot!
The final step for these students occurred on Saturday. Twenty-three of the 25 students were available to sign-up to volunteer for the 2019 Corporate Challenge put on by the Indiana Sports Corporation at the iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
I received comments from ISC on how well they interacted with participants, helped people, and how well they did their assignment for the day. ISC front office staff said that “this was one of the best years of electronic scoring they’ve had since they implemented the scoring system.” Now, THAT says something!
Not only did these students complete a major project, got the lay of the land in and around IUPUI, but they also snapped up their first experience in the industry BEFORE their FIRST official college class and represented IUPUI very well! Can it get any better?
We have SO MUCH ahead of us as we grow this program! With the Indiana Sports Corporation, Indiana Pacers, Indianapolis Colts, NCAA, IUPUI Athletics, and all of the other opportunities in the city, it’s no wonder we say that IUPUI is the place to learn sport management in the city of Indianapolis!